A group of McMaster students are into day two of a hunger strike to protest plans by the university to install auxiliary gas-powered generators to help it get through periods of high demand during summer. Environment Hamilton has joined the fray saying the cost of the project will lock the university into using fossil fuels for an additional decade or more.
The university has defended the project, saying it will only be used on an intermittent basis in periods of the highest demand and that in any case the usage of the generators will be limited to 100 hours per year.
In a statement the university noted, “When we hit the hottest days of summer and peak hydro demands the new peak shaver generators are the most efficient and sustainable way to provide electricity to keep campus running. Without them, we would have to rely on provincial hydro which also has a great environmental impact. We are committed to operating the peak shaver generators for a maximum 100 hours per year which will represent 1-2 per cent of total carbon emissions on campus. Other sustainability projects will offset these emissions.”
Regardless of the location of generators, peak energy in Ontario is gas-fired. On the hottest summer days Ontario Power Generation is also using gas-fired generators located across Ontario as backup to fill the gap between demand and hydro and nuclear. For peak demand power they charge almost double the off-peak rate and 50 percent more than the mid-peak rate.
With regard to the hunger strike, a McMaster University spokesperson told the Bay Observer, “While we support any student group’s right to protest peacefully, we are concerned that a hunger strike puts our students’ health and well-being at risk. It is far better to continue to work productively with the university and continue our ongoing discussions. We hope that the group reconsiders this planned action.”
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